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A Mind That Found Itself: An Autobiography

Creator: Clifford Whittingham Beers (author)
Date: 1910
Publisher: Longmans, Green, and Co., New York
Source: Available at selected libraries

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That night my guests honored me as agreed. For an hour or two we discussed business conditions and affairs in general. Then, one of them referred pointedly to my implied promise to unburden myself on a certain subject, the nature of which he did not, at the time, know. I immediately decided that it would be best to "take the bull by the horns," submit my plans, and, if necessary, sever my connection with the firm, should its members force me to choose (as I put it) between themselves and Humanity. I then proceeded to unfold my scheme; and, though I may have exhibited a decided intensity of feeling during my discourse, at no time, I believe, did I overstep the bounds of what appeared to be sane enthusiasm. My employers agreed that my purpose was commendable, -- that, no doubt I could and would eventually be able to do much for those I had left behind in a durance I so well knew to be vile. Their one warning was that I seemed in too great a hurry. They called my attention to the fact that I had not been long enough re-established in business to approach successfully and persuade men of wealth and influence to take hold of my project. And one of my guests very aptly observed that I could not afford to be a philanthropist, which objection I met by saying that all I intended to do was to supply ideas for those able to apply them. The conference ended satisfactorily. My employers disclaimed any personal objection to my proceeding with my project if I would, and yet remaining in their employ. They simply urged me to "go slow." "Wait until you're forty," said one. I then thought that I might do so. And perhaps I should have waited so long had not the next two days put me on the right road to an earlier inauguration of my cherished plans.


The next day, January 4th, true to my word, I went home. That night I had a long talk with my brother. I did not suspect that a man like myself, capable of dealing with bankers and talking for several consecutive hours with his employers without arousing their suspicion as to his mental integrity, was to be suspected by his own relatives. Nor, indeed, with the exception of my brother who had read my suspiciously excellent letter, were any of my relatives disturbed, -- and he did nothing to disabuse my assurance.


After our night conference he left for his own home, casually mentioning that he would talk with me again the next morning. That pleased me, for I was in a talkative mood and craved an interested listener.


When my brother returned the next morning I willingly accepted his invitation to go with him to his office where we could talk without fear of interruption. Arrived there, I calmly sat down and prepared to prove my whole case. I had scarcely "opened fire" when in walked a stranger -- a strapping fellow, to whom my brother immediately introduced me. I instinctively felt that it was by no mere chance that this third party had so suddenly appeared. My eye at once lighted on the dark blue trousers worn by the otherwise conventionally dressed stranger. That was enough. The situation became so clear that the explanations which followed were superfluous. In a word, I was under arrest, or in imminent danger of being arrested. To say that I was not in the least disconcerted would scarcely be true, for I had not divined my brother's clever purpose in luring me to his office. But I can say, with truth, that I was the coolest person in the room. I knew what I should do next, but my brother and the officer of the law could only guess. The fact is I did nothing. I calmly remained seated, awaiting the verdict which I well knew my brother, with characteristic decision, had prepared. With considerable effort -- for the situation, he has since told me, was the most trying one of his life -- he informed me that on the preceding day he had talked with the doctors to whom I had so thoughtfully exhibited myself a week earlier. All agreed that I was in a state of elation which might or might not become more pronounced. They had advised that I be persuaded to submit voluntarily to restraint and treatment, or that I be forcibly committed. On this advice my brother had proceeded to act. And it was well so; for, though I appreciated the fact that I was by no means in a normal state of mind, I had not a clear enough insight into my condition to realize that treatment under a certain amount of restraint was what I needed -- and that continued freedom might further inflame an imagination already overwrought.


A few simple statements by my brother convinced me that it was for my own good and the peace of mind of my relatives that I should temporarily surrender my freedom. This I agreed to do. Perhaps the presence of two hundred pounds of brawn and muscle, representing the law, lent persuasiveness to my brother's words. In fact, I did assent the more readily because I admired the thorough, sane, fair, almost artistic manner in which my brother had brought me to bay. I am inclined to believe that, had I suspected that a re-commitment was imminent, I should have fled to a neighboring State during the preceding night. The reader should not, however, imagine that I was treated with any unnecessary severity. The right thing in the right way was done at the right time. Though up to this moment I had been the subject of strategy, not for one moment thereafter, in any particular, was I deceived. I was frankly told that several doctors had pronounced me elated, and that for my own good I must submit to treatment. I was allowed to choose between a Probate Court commitment which would have "admitted me" (humorous phrase) to the State Hospital, or a "voluntary commitment" (somewhat humorous phrase) which would enable me to enter the large private hospital where I had previously passed from depression to elation, and had later suffered tortures. I naturally chose the more desirable of the two disguised blessings, and agreed to start at once for the private hospital. It was not that I feared again to enter the State Hospital, -- I wished to avoid the publicity which necessarily would have attended my commitment to that institution. Then, too, there were certain privileges which I knew I could not enjoy at the State Hospital, where doctors fear or refuse to treat each case on its own merits. Having re-established myself in society and business I did not wish to forfeit that advantage; and as the doctors believed that my period of elation would be short, it would have been sheer folly to advertise the fact that my mental integrity had again fallen under suspicion.

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